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Thibodeau responds to Reinsdorf’s ‘mediocre’ comment

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:45PM

SAN ANTONIO — That bubble coach Tom Thibodeau surrounds his players with gets smaller by the day.

Before the Bulls’ 96-86 victory Wednesday over the San Antonio Spurs that kicked off a six-game trip against Western Conference teams, Thibodeau was grilled about criticism from outside the organization and from within, specifically chairman Jerry Reinsdorf branding the team as “mediocre’’ in a recent TV interview.

“Jerry owns the team, so he’s entitled to say whatever he wants,’’ Thibodeau said. “If that’s the way he feels . . . and the way I feel about our team is this: I’m really proud of them, and we can do even better. So I’m not selling them short.’’

No, but a lot of others have been doing just that.

Analysts Charles Barkley and Jeff Van Gundy took shots at Bulls management in the last week.

Barkley told ESPN that if the franchise doesn’t land Carmelo Anthony somehow, “they’re going to be irrelevant for the next few years.’’

“We’re not going to respond to every rumor and things that this guy says and that guy says,’’ Thibodeau said. “The only thing that really matters is what we think. So we’re going to make the best decisions for our organization, the things that give us the best chance to have success.’’

Thibodeau was asked again if he thought ownership was actually committed to doing whatever it takes to pursue a championship and said, “As I told you, Jerry, with me, has been terrific. I don’t have any problems with Jerry. There are a lot of decisions that have to be made that are tough decisions; they’re not easy ones. And so you do what you think is right. You don’t get them all right, but hopefully you get a lot more right than you get wrong. We’ve taken some hits, so we have to navigate around what happened, and that’s what we’re doing.’’

The Bulls (23-22) outplayed the Spurs (33-13) in the fourth quarter thanks to Kirk Hinrich, who returned after missing the last four games with a hamstring injury. Hinrich scored all his 11 points in the fourth to hand the Spurs their third loss in a row.

“The opportunities arose,’’ Hinrich said.

“We were running plays where I was kind of coming off, getting clean looks and just trying not to predetermine what I was going to do. Be aggressive and make a play.’’

The victory gives the Bulls a big confidence boost at the start of this long trip.

“We believe in ourselves in this locker room,’’ Hinrich said. “We want to keep taking steps in the right direction.’’

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